On the (a)symmetry between the perception of time and space in large-scale environments

Hippocampus. 2018 Aug;28(8):539-548. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22954. Epub 2018 May 7.


Cross-dimensional interference between spatial and temporal processing is well documented in humans, but the direction of these interactions remains unclear. The theory of metaphoric structuring states that space is the dominant concept influencing time perception, whereas time has little effect upon the perception of space. In contrast, theories proposing a common neuronal mechanism representing magnitudes argue for a symmetric interaction between space and time perception. Here, we investigated space-time interactions in realistic, large-scale virtual environments. Our results demonstrate a symmetric relationship between the perception of temporal intervals in the supra-second range and room size (experiment 1), but an asymmetric relationship between the perception of travel time and traveled distance (experiment 2). While the perception of time was influenced by the size of virtual rooms and by the distance traveled within these rooms, time itself affected only the perception of room size, but had no influence on the perception of traveled distance. These results are discussed in the context of recent evidence from rodent studies suggesting that subsets of hippocampal place and entorhinal grid cells can simultaneously code for space and time, providing a potential neuronal basis for the interactions between these domains.

Keywords: entorhinal cortex; hippocampus; interval timing; time cells; time-space interaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Young Adult